Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Senate GOP Blocks Deputy Interior Secretary Nominee

President Obama's nomination of a deputy secretary of interior continued to be stalled in the Senate Wednesday as Republicans rallied to defeat a cloture motion.

David Hayes, who would be Interior secretary Ken Salazar's number two, cannot take the job for which he has been chosen until the filibuster is stopped and confirmation by the Senate is secured.

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said that the filibuster is aimed at convincing Salazar to explain further his recent decision to cancel certain oil and gas leases in the West.

The vote on the cloture motion was 57-39. Sixty votes are required to stop a filibuster.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Key Dems Announce Breakthrough on Climate Change Legislation

Arguments in the House Energy & Commerce Committee over whether to charge utilities for initial pollution credits needed to support a "cap and trade" carbon dioxide regulatory system, as well as the amount of reduction of carbon dioxide emissions required by 2020, have been settled.

According to a report in Roll Call, the newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) have reached a deal on those contentious issues.

The article quotes Waxman as saying the committee will move on to a mark-up of the climate change legislation next Monday, with the bill being formally introduced on Thursday.

Under Waxman's agreement with Boucher, the bill would grant electric utilities free initial emission credits and require that the nation achieve a 17 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

Yet to be determined is the amount of renewable energy required to be in each utility's portfolio of sources that will be included in the bill.

The measure is expected to include further assistance to the auto industry, as well as a "cash for clunkers" program that would grant consumers trading in low gas mileage vehicles a voucher toward the purchase of a new vehicle.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Supreme Court Requests Additional Briefs in Alaska Clean Water Act Case

The Supreme Court wants more information before deciding an Alaska case posing the question whether mine tailings may be lawfully dumped in a water body.

The Court issued an order Monday asking for supplemental briefs despite having heard argument in Couer Alaska, Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Inc. on January 12.

The issue in the case is whether a Bush administration regulation authorizing disposal of mine tailings in "waters of the United States" violates the Clean Water Act, which would require the polluter to get a permit if the material is deemed to be a "pollutant," subject to the requirements of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or "fill" material subject to the wetlands permitting provision of the law.

The particular dispute involves a proposed gold mine north of Juneau. The Army Corps of Engineers granted permission to the mine operator to dump waste materials in Lower Slate Lake. The federal district court in Alaska upheld that decision, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed.